Transcript:

Speaker Grover, tell me how you first met Jerry.

Speaker Wow, I, I first met Jerry at my first audition for Pajama Game and I didn't actually meet him, but I just was aware of someone watching me and I felt this interest, you know. So anyway, that that was my first contact with him and his energy then that led to West Side Story from you didn't get. Did you get. I didn't I in Pajama Game, I was picked as a as an alternate. So I was like I didn't make quite make it but it was close in those days. I didn't know that you had to make sure you got in the front. You know, I thought, well I'm a good dancer and if I'm a good dancer, I'll be seen and you got to help that along. So tell me about your audition for auditioning for West Side Story. Almost a total blank. All I. I remember the callbacks and I remember being given a side was some lines to read. And that was I was not prepared for that. You know, I had a lot of energy and I and I was felt strong in my dance ability. But to suddenly have words to speak and believe me, he demanded us as much from you as an actor as he did as a dancer. But my thinking about it, we all wanted to dance for Robbins, you know, because if if you made the cut, if you booked the gig, it meant something special because you had just been approved of by a living genius. And I think most of us walked in the door at the first rehearsal longing for more of that approval. But little did we know how rarely he gave it even to himself. But before we get off auditions, I remember the audition for the movie, the screen test for the movie more than more than the play. And I remember that process of a camera. He was sitting on the camera, a rolling down, and he would ask questions and that didn't work out either. But I think I was too old by then, or that's the message that I got.

Speaker Now, there are a lot of things that were usual for the dancers, for people who had formerly been just dancers when they were cast in West Side Story. Right. So tell me what was unusual about that?

Speaker Well, you know, you brought everything you had into the rehearsals, you know, and but suddenly we were asked to do homework. We had to write our family history. And what was that about? You know, who we got along with? Why? Why we felt that we were not being taken care of. And, you know, that the gang was our main family. That's what he was going for. And, you know, it's amazing that the first 45 seconds of West Side Story, it tells the whole back story of all those characters. And in 45 minutes from the time that riff comes down and looks around and surveys the corner and starts with a snapping, and then he covers the territory and then he starts to move around and he starts to do the circle stuff.

Speaker And we come down, put our cigarettes out, and we're together now and we're going back to the corner. And then we do what we like the best, the strut. And then we fly through there and then we go home and, you know, like, don't mess with us. And suddenly Bernardo appears. And that's the beginning of the tragedy. From that point on, that was the only moment you saw us happy in our element. And it was ours. And that's what he wanted us to convey. And that was a lot to ask of a dancer to do that.

Speaker And that all happened in 45 seconds.

Speaker You know. You know, I guess in story writing is called the inciting incident. What's the moment that. Makes the story happen. That was the moment comes from then on, both of those guys would end up killing each other and that was the tragedy. But I for a man to have conceived that and to find a way to to show that and dance, pretty amazing.

Speaker What else was unusual about the rehearsal process?

Speaker Unusual in, like, the cool dance.

Speaker Oh, wow, we had to learn five different versions of it and he expected you to remember every single version. There's a big back attitude turn for a while. It was a double.

Speaker And if if you didn't cut it, I mean, you you walked in the door with two possibilities, you could lose your job or you arrange to take ballet class.

Speaker Between rehearsals that I did, I did both. I lived in fear of losing my job not because of my disability, but because I didn't know how to function as a successful dancer. And you either rose to the occasion or you folded to it. Mickey Cowan, who played Riff wonderfully, he made the mistake of letting Jerry know that he was a tap dancer. That was not a good idea. From that moment on, Jerry was on him almost just I feel like you. And there were days when we'd be rehearsing and downstairs we could hear someone auditioning for Mickey's part and no one said anything. And Mickey lived through that and not only lived through it, he overcame it and he delivered.

Speaker That's pressure.

Speaker Unusual it was I was so relieved to get out of the rehearsal and just when five o'clock came, just to get out and get get to breathe and then but the next morning you return, there were dancers who who had injuries and they worked on injuries because they knew if you said you were injured, you could not get out on the floor and someone else got on the floor. He would put someone else in your place and you didn't know how long that person would be in your place.

Speaker Now, there were certain requirements I think you had, right, you were divided into two groups that we were there were two gangs.

Speaker We were told not to fraternize with each other. He wanted war. This was mortal combat. And we were not to socialize. OK, so there was this gang against that gang and it extended into our social life. There was this feeling of competition. We were rehearsing at the Broadway theater. One day outside the theater, there was this big piece of cardboard in the garbage. The Jets got together. We took that piece of cardboard and fashioned it into this big shark and we put a slash in it with blood coming out of it. And at lunchtime, we climbed up to the fly floor over the stage. And sure enough, two o'clock came. Jerry was he wanted everybody ready to go all the time. And there were no no jets around.

Speaker And the sharks were standing like there weren't. Are we the good ones? We're here. We're here. And he started to yell at Ruth, the stage manager. Where are they got them here. And at the right moment, we threw that shark over and it landed inches from his feet. And he looks down and he saw that dead shark and he loved it. So upmanship was it was it was the mood and actually it was the fun of it and.

Speaker Yeah, and did you talk to that you were all youngsters, did he talk to you about, uh, intolerance and. No.

Speaker No, I mean that the fact that that was the message we didn't know it and I didn't realize until I saw him interviewed on PBS years later when he said that the the show was about the futility of intolerance. Pretty amazing. I mean, for an artist, his signature work, one of his signature works to be about that subject, you know, and that's a subject that touched all of us and so many different ways. And thank God it's still available to be seen. And, man, the world that we live in could really benefit from a good look at West Side Story.

Speaker He chose the subject. Of course, he had wonderful collaborators, but he chose the subject.

Speaker What does that say about, you know, I can't it's not for me to analyze or figure out what he's about, but it was it's a subject he knew a lot about, you know, in his life that I think I I used to hear it with camomile tea in our hands. He would talk about his childhood and about the delicatessen and being forced to sleep on top of the counter on the cold marble. And his I you know, I just get the feeling that it was something it was one of his demons. And Lord knows there were many ways that he was an example of intolerance. But I love him that he wanted to make his art about it. And I mean, well, you know, from all those years, the McCarthy hearings and that he was being treated intolerably and being forced to reveal things at the price of his own career. And so he was, in a way, a victim of intolerance as much as any of us.

Speaker Let's get back for a second, OK? Come back to us, but let's go back for a second to West Side Story. Um, he I understand he was using some actors studio techniques on you. Do you remember any of the, um.

Speaker No. In fact, when I worked with him on the the West Side Story Suite, I used to talk to the dancers about motivation and he asked me not to, you know, and, you know, we finally butted heads about it. But, you know, we both could get the same results. But we just went about it in different ways. And, you know, I there are times of, you know, we talked about dogs before and I watched him soften when he was just watching a playful dog on the beach. And in contrast, there is the other part of him. And I often wondered what it would be like if he would treat his dancers the way he treated his dogs, how it might have affected the work. Maybe maybe he wanted me there with I'm jumping around a little bit to Jerome Robbins Broadway because a lot of my job was getting people out of their dressing rooms to come down and work with them, you know, and I could ease that into happening.

Speaker I don't know what was a typical during rehearsal.

Speaker Well.

Speaker First, he would cover it rehearsals, he would cover the mirrors, the big cover black clause, because he thought he, unlike many choreographers he did not create by using the mirror, many choreographers will look in the mirror and design choreography based on what their eyes are telling them. He would go into his head and he would envision it and.

Speaker The moves would start to show on the back of his neck and I would stand behind him and it got to a place where I could almost tell what he was going to do before he did it, because his articulation with his body was so amazing in his own gift for character was incredible. I mean, he could play a bathing beauty better than anybody. He could play a silent movie, Repetition in the Body, a demon better than anybody. I mean, he was really gifted. And it was interesting to watch how so few people could take what he was demonstrating and then take it and add their own thing on to it.

Speaker But there was a restlessness about the rehearsal, and I sometimes would be sitting next to him and I consciously had to make myself become a window to allow the energy to flow through me because it started to get in me. But there were moments when he was so delightful when he would do something. And then there were moments when just the sound of his voice would cut across just and reveal an impatience. That was pretty scary. And then there were things like the changes changing one thing, like in a dance that has already been choreographed and it was amazing, he would go back to it. And there's one little thing, make one little change in it. And it was it it controlled him. It was like he couldn't move forward until he tried to fashion it into something else. He wouldn't he did wouldn't settle for anything he wanted.

Speaker There was something that drove him to perfection. What do you dream, you know?

Speaker It must you know, for you, if I ask myself that now, I would say, well, my God, I must have been familiar with being told I was nothing, that I couldn't accomplish anything in my life. And my struggle is trying to prove that I could do something. And yet somehow going back to when I was five, when my parents had to be right, of course they were right. I can't do it. You know, to me, that's what it suggests to me. I don't know what it is for him.

Speaker Well, when he was talking to you about over that time, we'll tell you about his faith. What else did he talk about that? What else did.

Speaker I don't remember the exact words, but the feeling was of a lonely there was a deep loneliness in there and he could he was such an amazing friend. I mean, his his of a friendship with him was a real treasure. And here was someone who who grew up out of that kind of loneliness.

Speaker Can you give me an example of a friendship with him?

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Yeah. Once I was I had a place up in the Catskills and there was a brook across the street and I did a stupid thing. There was a log going across the brook and I walked on the log and I fell into the brook backwards and hit my head on stones. And I ended up in the hospital, fortunately, and I was in the hospital and some kind of state of delirium. And I picked up the phone at the bedside and I thought I dialed my doctor back in New York. And I didn't I dialed him and he answered the phone and he I told him what happened. He said, where are you? I told him I was in the car. Two hours later, he was there at my bedside. He was there, so, you know, showing up like that was incredible. I hope I get the chance to do that in my life as well.

Speaker Mm hmm. Um, let's go back to West Side Story for for just a few minutes and then we can move on.

Speaker Um, what was his relationship with the cast like?

Speaker It was all over the map with Sheida and with Tony Mordente, it was just pals and buddies and laughter with others. For those of us who had who had grew up in an atmosphere of criticism, it was really scary because it took us back there. It took us back to the to the scary place.

Speaker So my.

Speaker What was it that you did that was so to it, you know, it it wasn't it wasn't his acts. It was a tone of voice. There was an edge and there wasn't patience and and something was bothering him. But we didn't we would take it personally. You know, we didn't understand his the pressure he was under. You know, there he was with five extraordinary collaborators. And you know what that must have been like, shocking. And and the things the Jerry the chances that Jerry made them take, I mean, to have faith throughout the whole beginning of the show, the whole opening number, and created the prologue. I mean, he just he did major stuff and he and out of town, he did this somewhere, ballet. And who, you know, it was it was hard, but it was an opportunity for us to work hard and learn and get out of it, what we could what we could fill up.

Speaker It must have been very frustrating for him having a vision in his head, as you said. Yes, I know. I had a bubble last. The image bubble. OK, we do that, um.

Speaker Yeah, um, I'm trying to think, what do we need to go back to was just the last just the last few sentences.

Speaker Well, it was about the I'm going to I'm going to ask you a different way.

Speaker OK, um.

Speaker Given how challenging it was for some dancers to work for him, um, but everybody wanted to watch.

Speaker It's he his status meant something and the other, as well as the others, there was something we weren't just going to be in a show doing kicks and tricks and the typical Broadway stuff. There was a quality and it started with the first sound of music, you know, the beginning of the overture. And and we didn't know it. Again, this is all intuitive.

Speaker You talked before about his collaborators, he had really formidable collaborators in West Side Story, right, and the risks that he made them take. Tell me about that again.

Speaker Well, from my own experience at crafting musicals, you know, here he took a song like the opening song that it was a rocket to the Moon and that had been worked on and planned for years and then close to production time. He took a whole new way of doing the beginning of the show, setting it up. But again, he was he it was remarkable and that he was able to extract out of their material enough enough material to create the perfect way to set up this story. And look, he did it for funny thing happened on the way to the forum. He he saw the show. And overnight he said, wait a minute, this is what has to happen. And he gave the show an opening that brought the audience in in a way that worked, made the whole thing work.

Speaker Thank you. An incredible genius.

Speaker I'm talking again about the collaborator's what did you understand about how they related to each other?

Speaker It was there at rehearsals. The collaborators were there, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, Bernstein were there. But you never you never had a sense of them working together. It was strictly Jeri's territory. And if he had anything to say to them, he would. I don't think he just discussed it in front of us. And I think when the collaborators spoke up, he preferred them not to that, you know, it was his rehearsal and he was the guy. And Bernstine, you know, what a lovable man and what a gracious man.

Speaker How did they relate to each other?

Speaker Well, I guess great.

Speaker I mean, I was in meetings later on with Jerry and with Leonard, and they were great together. But I would you could sense pacing going on from Bernstine and with and Sondheim that, you know, and Akst happening. But that's the whole process. There's always stuff going on, the questions coming up. But he was there with his cast and he was big daddy, nobody else.

Speaker How did he get that name?

Speaker I it came up. It just came up, Big Daddy. And it stuck.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Why are the collaborators here? Excuse me one second. Peter, are you having traffic issues? I'm having minor traffic issues.

Speaker OK, um, one of the, um, collaborators some people don't talk about as much as the others is, uh, Peter Gennaro and. Oh yeah. Yeah, I understand that Peter actually staged America right at work and Jerry did something right.

Speaker I remember. I remember exactly what you're telling me and it sounds right. I don't remember specifics on it, but I, I that feels right again.

Speaker Peter, his career was as a choreographer was just beginning and so Jerry brought him in and um.

Speaker Yeah, I mean, Jerry made good use of everybody.

Speaker That's too bad that he didn't give Peter the judgment that he deserved. But we all know.

Speaker Why? Why didn't you do it?

Speaker You know, I, I only I think it slips Jerry's mind. That's not one of the things. And the front of his memory, like when we did Jerome Robbins Broadway and the Tony Awards came up and he gets the Tony Award for Best Director, and he got a five o'clock in the morning. He calls me in tears because he forgot to mention my name on the telecast and he says, I couldn't remember your name, but, you know, it's just who knows what's going on inside all those compartments of his mind.

Speaker Give me a second, because we've been covering a lot of territory. I want to make sure we don't leave anything out on the way.

Speaker You got the story about him falling off the stage already, right?

Speaker Uh, yeah. OK. OK, so we've gotten here.

Speaker All right. All right.

Speaker Could you talk a little bit before we leave West Side Story about the seamlessness of how we can save the show and made it work as a director? Do you know? You know what I mean by that?

Speaker I do. I do. Can you talk a little bit about that? I think you have an example of that seamlessness. It happened on opening night.

Speaker Uh huh.

Speaker Oh, yeah. Well, there was the show had to work even in the transitions, the scenic transitions, there was a fluidity about the weight thing, and he was very strong about that.

Speaker On opening night, America stopped the show cold and the what happens after America? The curtain goes up and reveals the drugstore set where all the jets are waiting for the for the big powwow. And so America ends, the audience screams and whatnot. Not the stage manager didn't know what to do. She was worried because the curtain was still down. So she pulls the curtain up. And as the curtain goes up, my task was doing push ups over by the jukebox. So I'm doing push ups and I'm hearing the audience still roaring and screaming.

Speaker And I'm thinking, oh, shit, I've got the cool dance to do, right? So I'm up to 40 push ups and I pause and think I got it. Oh. I collapsed on the floor and the audience laughed, so but I saved my butt and I thought he's going to kill me for doing that. But it was you know, it was the first time I ever had an instinct on how to get a laugh. And it just happened. So I guess I was willing to risk a little something.

Speaker But he was that's that's an example of it, but he the I think. What it would be great if you could talk about is how, um, he was able to he had a cinematic vision of the show. That was my thing. Did you know what I mean by that? It was nothing happened in one. So that stuff could happen behind.

Speaker Yes. Yes, you're right. You're right. And I don't know if I'm going to give you what you need on this, but I just remember the the the set with the fence and the stairs and that there was something about the the choreography coming at you on angles and crisscrossing. And then that set came down for the rumble at the end and folded up this way and in a way trapped the audience so that there were there were scenic concepts that took advantage of that. And, you know, the pressure to stick way that the neighborhood was there and that that it felt like it was closing in on you. And then somewhere, ballet, everything left. And the first time you saw Sky, you know, just, you know, that took well over an hour to accomplish that.

Speaker How about that? If you could maybe describe in the context of what we're talking about, if you could give it a little context, that moment where Maria is changing the ball and you remember what happened.

Speaker Oh, golly. After the after the first scene, after something's come coming. And there was this tremolo in the music in this high kind of ringing sound and this the stage and and these crepe paper. Banners just came falling down out of the sky, and then this drumbeat came underneath and suddenly wiped out and there was a horde of dancers at the dance, at the gym. That was a spectacular transition. I only saw it twice. But, you know, it was it was amazing what was new about the story. Well, you know, four dancers, it changed the ballgame, totally changed the ball game that my dancers were used in 32 roles. There were 32 dancers in the show and they all supplied what was needed for everything that vocally acting wise, it was there and she it was very new. The musicals hadn't been done in that in that way before that there were it was an opera, you know, but it it it made it as a musical. Thank God that we got to see that opera.

Speaker How about in terms of subject?

Speaker Well.

Speaker Yeah, it's pretty hard to sing about are inhumane acts against each other and to dance about it, but he found a way and he used a ballet vocabulary with some jazz in it. I mean, if if someone came to dance that they're going to take do a gang war and they're going to do it, what, using ballet and jazz. And, you know, no wonder it took Cheryl Crawford four years to try to get the show off the ground and it took Bobby Griffith and Helprin's to do it, their belief in it.

Speaker Is there anything that you would like to say about one story that.

Speaker Well, the experienced, the experienced gave we didn't know it, but here we are 50 years later and it's still growing inside us and we can still our muscles still know the choreography. I still know it, even though I'm not gay. If to get my leg up there, I can still feel all of that movement. It's part of us and it's going to stay there. So, you know, it's a it's a cellular experience, a once in a lifetime. Why don't you know, why don't they do a production with the Shiites and the Sunnis against the Sunnis?

Speaker You know, I mean, maybe the government should think about that kind of foreign policy.

Speaker Um, yeah. Twenty minutes.

Speaker OK, so, um, let's talk about Dallis, USA Sohi, what was Ballies, USA?

Speaker Um, for somebody, you know, when was it who sponsored it the.

Speaker Well, I just got a phone call from Jerry. You know, I had a lot of nerve, I guess, you know, because, um. I my first choreography, I was for some Sunday morning show on CBS, and I called Jerry and I asked him to watch what nerve that took.

Speaker Oh, but no, that was about the American Theater Lab.. I'm sorry. I digress.

Speaker OK, we'll get to that. OK, Bill, as you say, I was shocked when he asked me to come in and help him with it. And but right there did that I was doing was Silent Night and and rehearsed during the day. But again, here he is taking chances, he did a jazz ballet with no music or no way. Yeah, with no music. Opus Jazz.

Speaker That wasn't it. What was it?

Speaker Oh, yeah. He did an entire ballet called Moves No Music, 1958 59.

Speaker Do you remember how that developed?

Speaker No, I don't.

Speaker What can you tell me about the experience as a dancer? Of being in movies, really?

Speaker Well, I wasn't in it. I assisted him, so I wasn't in it. I worked through some of the choreography. But again, my job. Seem to be going upstairs and getting Sandra Lee to come down and rehearse because she really had a hard time.

Speaker I read somewhere that you said about John Roberts Broadway that the show should have opened after only eight weeks of rehearsal.

Speaker Six months of rehearsals. Wore everybody down. He had them after eight weeks of rehearsal, the energy was had peaked. It was prime. You know, it's it's in your it's I don't know, all of Broadway. I mean, that's the that's the moment. Eight weeks after you start, let them do it. But going on but again, it's his process because he goes on in order to purrfect goes on and orders change and does he have it right. And he starts to doubt, maybe doubt himself. And so that mood, you go with them, you know, he's the guy at the front of the room and it. You take that journey with them whether you want to or not.

Speaker Well, did you make it better or not?

Speaker Maybe in some ways, but. I mean, it was wonderful. I mean, you know, people I watch people in that audience just weeping for for gratitude that they got to see that and got to experience that theater.

Speaker Tell me about the reconstruction process. Were you around?

Speaker Oh, my God, it was it it was amazing because there were some things that were started with a fragment with maybe, you know, just the music. And Jerry really knew music. He would play scores and he would examine them. He understood the structure of the music. So he relied on scores so much. And there were things that just totally he didn't remember at all. And there was a constant flow of people coming in and saying, well, I can remember a little bit, but, you know, I don't you know, and then someone would come and say, no, it wasn't like that. It was like this. So the whole process was time consuming and. Hmm. But it was fascinating to see that struggle happening.

Speaker What was it like for you personally with Jerry?

Speaker You mentioned before I loved the first part before all the people came in. I mean, that's when we would go out to the beach and with music and with bags of groceries and we'd cook and just talk about the show and run ideas by and and take chances. And that that was great. I love that. And then and then people came around and then the the you know, Big Daddy was in charge and, you know, and my role was to support him or whatever way I could. And I knew that. And that's why I was there. And that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to see this thing happen. So I go I got to be the organizer. I got to be the guy who created the charts or where everybody was supposed to be when and. Stuff like that, and I got to be the hand holder.

Speaker What happened that was so, uh, sort of gut twisting that.

Speaker I directed the the national tour. And Gerri will come in for the last during the tech week, and I knew what it would be like, I know nothing that I had done would be good enough, but I knew that. But it was actually pretty good. So he's coming in and he's working with people and he's just picking stuff apart. And he has the cast of King and I Ballay out in the lobby and he's giving notes and he starts talking about the way it was done originally and what it looked like and that there were no African-Americans in it and everybody looked Asian and everybody looked the same. And there was an African-American girl in it. And he asked her if she would whiten up her arms. And the girl says. Collapsed. I mean, she was just so upset and ran off and I saw the equity deputy follow her and Jerry called a break. So I immediately went to Jerry and I said, Jerry, you got to go to that girl now and apologize because she's the equity deputy is on the phone to he didn't believe me. And we got into it. And finally he did it and made it all right. But that that was that was our fallen out.

Speaker He didn't like it that I did that to him.

Speaker That was, um, I'm not trying to minimize the instances of insensitivity of that in any way.

Speaker However, like many things about Jerry, I think it was something of a contradiction because he was perhaps the first along with that.

Speaker Absolutely. He was the he was the first person to embrace integrating socially, you know. But it truly was an aesthetic it was an aesthetic reason. He wanted it to look like it looked originally. And it bothered him that she had the white makeup on her face and she had dark arms. And maybe there was a better way for him to have ask her to whiten her arms. But he was cutting to the chase.

Speaker Um.

Speaker But otherwise was the rehearsal process, how did you two work together otherwise?

Speaker Yeah, I mean.

Speaker There couldn't be a better person to work with, I mean, and I always felt enriched by the process, you know, and. You know, we just you know, there were times when he looked at me and he said, why aren't your eyes looking where my eyes are looking? I said, Jerry, are you kidding me?

Speaker I'm I'm watching the same, he says, are you watching the same ballet? As I said, yes. You expect my eyes to be exactly where yours are.

Speaker Speaking of eyes, tell me about this eye for detail.

Speaker Oh, oh, detail, I have I have photographs of backstage Jerome Robbins Broadway while touring, while everybody sitting around waiting. He is backstage in the dressing room, putting the makeup on somebody. And just the intensity of the way he's holding that that brush and doing someone's eyes tells you exactly how he works. I mean, it's extraordinary. I mean, it is. That's like a laser beam.

Speaker Would you say that?

Speaker He was the decisive worker or indecisive.

Speaker Wow, it's it's. His manner of work could be. It's totally filled with doubt or not making a decision. I think that was his main goal to to get to making a decision. You know, he was so reluctant to make a final decision about something, there was no final decision. Which is why that curtain, 12 inches, four hours and yeah.

Speaker He knew, you know, so what was that about?

Speaker I wish I knew.

Speaker I wish I know he could still move during Jerome Robbins Broadway. Tell me what it was like to watch him. Demonstrate. Oh.

Speaker Again, I have that DVD for you, you'll see him in rehearsals with Debbie Shapiro and Charlotte d'Amboise, his.

Speaker His moves, the way he held a bouquet of roses as a silent movie star and the way he hit the man with it and the way he put his hand on, he gives her a ring and the way he looks and the way she leans over her bodies and talks to the autism, you know, it was so delightful. I mean, you you just know, this will would be hilarious.

Speaker Nobody could pull it off. You know, it was like that. Again, his his body language when he started to move. And, you know, it's almost like Jack Coles, Jack Jackhole was an incredible dancer, too, but and Jerry wasn't necessarily technically adept dancer, but so it came out on his body. If you all he had to do was just tune in and just be with his presence in that room and you could get it. You know, when I looked at the footage from Jerome Robbins Broadway, he was wearing the same brown pants that he wore to rehearsing from American Theater Lab 20 years earlier. And those pants, Barry Prima's owns those pants today because Jerry Jerry willed him his his rehearsal bag.

Speaker And inside the rehearsal bag was Jerry Brown Pants because Barry used to tease him about those pants.

Speaker So funny.

Speaker You worked on Broadway. First of all, I choreographed yourself, but also you worked with many accomplished choreographers. I think you worked with your kid and Joe. Yeah, yeah. Bennett, what would you say? Distinguished Jerry from the rest of the.

Speaker They were all amazing. They were all amazing and had their own spin on. They're just it's unfair to compare them. I think, Jerry.

Speaker Wiled. More of what he did that he.

Speaker He's the most amazing career I've ever had when you put it on paper. It's just, my God, not one person could not have done all this. And he was just so prolific and his choices, he went from one to the next, which compounded his anxiety with Jerome Robbins Broadway because he knew he mentioned, I've done so much that has worked. What if it doesn't work this time? You know, that's that's a lot of baggage to carry with you.

Speaker And also excuse me. Of you were so talented at being able to tell stories with numbers and through dancing and write his conception of that show robbed him of the ability to do that. Right.

Speaker Very interesting. You're absolutely right. Just that fact alone, it robbed him from doing what he excelled with with other shows and giving it fluidity in a seamlessness and a new way to look at it and a new way to let it unfold for the audience. He he was he was stuck. Maybe. I think you've hit it on the head. That's what distinguishes him, because I don't know any other choreographer who or director who could look at material or see material on and come up with exactly what needed to happen. What do you mean, exactly what needed what needed to happen to make it work? You know, it's like if you could get Jerry Robbins to go out of town to see your musical and just let them talk on it for about a half an hour afterwards. What an opportunity.

Speaker I think that happened, right?

Speaker It happened on C-SPAN, it happened on male, on on on See-Saw, Joe curtness producer said, Do you think if you get Jerry Roberts, you come to see the show? I said, well, I don't know, I'll give him a call. So I call him. We're in Detroit. Middle of winter. Jerry comes like in a day's notice again. And he. He said what was wrong with the show? He said what worked about it and what's not working about it? And went and left, and that's not what they wanted to hear.

Speaker So they called someone else in on male.

Speaker I called Jerry, would you come down to Washington and take a look at this show comes down, meet with the two young writers afterwards. And after and I said, well, what happened, what did Jerry say? Oh, he's too old.

Speaker He his ideas would never work and, you know. But. He did know.

Speaker He I think he.

Speaker Do doctor a lot of shows that he that nobody who wasn't involved actually knows about because it didn't take credit for those things. Right, right.

Speaker So what was he generally like when it came to taking credit as a generous.

Speaker Well.

Speaker My impression is that when Jerry wanted credit, you put a box around his name for entire production, conceived and directed by he deserved it. He deserved it.

Speaker Did he have it on Gypsie? The box.

Speaker And yet. You're telling me a whole different story.

Speaker So, you know, if you can just put it in that context and get on the day's notice, right, right.

Speaker He will show up.

Speaker I'm sorry if you could just make you know. Yes.

Speaker He demanded credit of a high caliber, but then.

Speaker As a friend, he would come and he would come and look at his show and just give it away, give it away and go home.

Speaker He flew down on his own.

Speaker He didn't ask to be brought in no car, you're not to send a car for me.

Speaker What a match. A real match.

Speaker Um, you are a well-known choreographer in your own right. How did Jarrett influence your own?

Speaker It did a lot. I he's just showing he showed me how to examine material, how to look at it and that process alone.

Speaker It was great for me and also got me in trouble because I wasn't at the robbins' level and the assistance I got, you know, so I thought, sure, I had to interview for jobs, but I thought myself out of them, you know, I would go out of town and look at shows and I would doctor show. But again, they didn't want to listen to me either.

Speaker But I have you know, it was. I learned a lot. Um, what was he like socially? What did he like to do to have fun?

Speaker God, the beach children, dogs, oh, should I tell you this, one of his favorite or one of our favorite things to do after we'd work all day at the beach is go take a walk down the road over to the bridge, stand on the bridge and urinate into the creek, then close up and then come back or walk down to the beach, urinate onto the Seine.

Speaker I mean, it was it was I don't know, it was like a buddy thing. You know, I kind of remember when I was a kid that that's what the older guys would do. They would just go on a walk and they would.

Speaker So amazing, and what a joy in the kitchen, a joy in the kitchen, making dinner with him was great. It was great. Why? Because it was like it was like being in a frat house. You know, it was like it was like a brother that I didn't have or a father that I didn't have. And just to hang out and slice the tomatoes and chop the parsley and get some really good mozzarella cheese and some good olive oil and open a glass of wine, it was really amazing.

Speaker You know, I think he was a game player, too.

Speaker He was a game, you know. Yeah. He was like charades and stuff like that. Yeah. Yeah. I think he was a board game player, too. Did he play chess? Backgammon. Yeah. Yeah. We didn't do too much of that.

Speaker I like how bad it was he was, you know, I would.

Speaker Hmm.

Speaker My heart wants to say that it was there. He's available for intimacy and in our way we were intimate. I was he respected that I was always married when we were around each other. So that was not did not become an issue between us. And he was a beautiful man and he was affectionate and hugs were generous ones. And his laughter, his he loved to laugh. You know, you can still hear him do it.

Speaker A lot of times I miss. Yeah.

Speaker But I think he's here.

Speaker He seemed to be to me anyway, although, of course, I only knew.

Speaker Through work, but he seemed to be a person given over to profound internal conflict. What were those that present themselves to you?

Speaker Aicha.

Speaker His moments, I couldn't. I couldn't analyze them, I just allowed I allowed myself to witness them and I allowed him to do them in front of me if if that help and I could be there for him in that way.

Speaker But.

Speaker Can you share anything about what the source of this was?

Speaker He never really shared what the source of it was, not the real source, I mean, things would come out about family, about other people. You know, his deference to Balanchine was surprising to me to watch him in front of Balanchine because suddenly Balanchine became big daddy, you know, and I could see it in his body language. So I think as a father son thing that we both felt comfortable with or felt familiar and it felt safe. So he and I were safe together because we have similar baggage.

Speaker But, you know, we didn't go to we didn't go to the analysts to find out, but.

Speaker Oh.

Speaker Gregoire is quoted as saying, Over the years, I watched him agonize about choosing between man.

Speaker What was that about?

Speaker You know, I don't think that I think that's a misquote. I didn't see him agonize about it. I just because of what was going on. I saw the struggle, you know, and the struggle is a familiar one to me. I know what that is. I mean, for me, I know what it is.

Speaker Uh.

Speaker I just wanted him to be with somebody, it didn't matter who.

Speaker He should have been happy.

Speaker Or he he was happy he made his own way, but I wish him more happiness than I saw him have.

Speaker He was constantly trying in one way or another of relationships. And he genuinely appreciated someone. Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Speaker But I. I don't know if I was doing that. Tell me what you think. Was he doing that because he thought he should do it and be doing.

Speaker I have no I don't know. I don't feel that he was faking anything. You know, I think he was true to himself.

Speaker And because he he didn't he didn't express a need for one over the other, you know, he he would just be with different people.

Speaker And from what I saw, he treated them both well. Did you ever talk with you about wanting to have a family? Mm.

Speaker Well, he didn't have to talk about it. He loved it that I had a son and he and I have and I have another son from a previous relationship and well who doesn't know I'm his father. And when the boy was ten years old somehow he came to New York and I took him up, I took him up to Jerry's house and Steven's landing and Jerry took photographs of us. But it again, it a family was important to him.

Speaker And and those photographs, just the way the photographs are, Jerry played a role in those photographs. And the stearn's who lived next door, Dan Stern. What a family. And we invariably ended up over there for dinner. And I remember one night the two children were so they were so enthusiastic and they were just so free and liberated. And Jerry loved that he would laugh. And then the kids started throwing spaghetti on the walls in the past and the tomato sauce.

Speaker And that was so amazing. And I think that's that's the that's the ballet in Jerry's head of what a family can be throwing pasta up against the wall in a joyful, free way.

Speaker It was amazing.

Speaker He never really well, he got to live it through others, you know, and he drew on he drew on that, I think, for his work.

Speaker What did you learn from her?

Speaker OK, well, I'm just thinking about that spaghetti fight in the kitchen, and I learned joy, I mean, there was joy in that room and we all knew it and we didn't talk about it.

Speaker It was just total joy. And the parents who didn't scold children for doing it, they laughed and joined in and the mother picked up this week. Now, my mother wouldn't have done that and Jerry's mother wouldn't have done that.

Speaker But that was a moment. I wish we had that on film. That's that's the thing.

Speaker Is there anything you'd like to tell me about?

Speaker I have a lot of love in my heart for him, and thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Speaker It feels good. No.

Speaker I think the spaghetti is it, I can't do better than that. Look at your list.

Speaker Yeah, but I don't think there's anything. Hmm. Did I hit the high spots? Yeah. You were amazing. You are just amazing.

Speaker Uh, marvelous story. Shark Story. Mickey Kalnins Big Mistake, The Gangway for the Spaghetti of the Stearnes.

Speaker His brand of rival. The Hospital. Yeah. Gotta have a gimmick. Tony Award. Oh, yeah. I couldn't remember my name. Michael Scott Gregory first ever. Oh, well, that's not important here.

Speaker We had it all. He had it all so clearly. Oh, take your glasses. Oh, sure. Thanks.

Speaker You're really you are so filled up with emotion for this man. But he also causes or cause angst and pain for not for you.

Speaker For what? How do you reconcile those two?

Speaker You forgive, you forgive him, and I can choose what I think and my thoughts can go over there and that's going to get me in trouble, or they can go over there and we can talk about the spaghetti in the past and the joyous things that occur. Well, I am not I am not my mind, I I had choices I can make my own story, I can make my own story with if somehow he must have given you he gave you enough ammunition on the positive side. No, I gave myself that, I gave myself that, I worked on it, I went home after rehearsal and I worked on it consciously, you know, I had to because I was going down.

Speaker What did you have to tell your.

Speaker I had to look, I had to have the courage to know what I approved of in myself without seeking his approval, I had to find a way to and it was the perfect time in my life to do it. Doing Jerome Robbins Broadway, because I got to a place where I could start doing the things and doing taking action that I approved of, because that's what was going to get me through the tragedies that were going to happen in my life, the loss of my wife and and almost losing my son. So the process. Was the right process for me.

Speaker And today.

Speaker I have a great relationship with my son. I get to be the father that I never had. I get to be the jury that I never had.

Grover Dale
Interview Date:
2007-07-12
Runtime:
1:09:32
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-zk55d8pb9f, cpb-aacip-504-v97zk56b8q, cpb-aacip-504-h41jh3dq5j
MLA CITATIONS:
"Grover Dale, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 12 Jul. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/981
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, July 12). Grover Dale, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/981
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Grover Dale, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). July 12, 2007. Accessed January 24, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/981

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